If you have to ask whether you need a lawyer, chances are you probably do. Most criminal and civil cases are complex, so it’s vital to have an experienced advocate on your side. However, there are a handful of legal situations where you might be able to go it alone. Remember, there are two types of legal cases. In criminal cases, the state charges you with a crime. The prosecutor is a government official; cases can result in jail time or fines. In civil cases, no one is charged with breaking the law, but one party may sue another for perceived damages. You may also be injured and decide to bring a civil case against the person responsible. Divorce cases and estate filings are also civil matters.
When Do I Need a Lawyer: Civil Cases?
Whether you are the plaintiff or the defendant, excellent representation is essential in most civil cases. It’s generally a matter of protecting your financial interests, preserving your reputation or both.
- In most divorce cases, both spouses need a lawyer to represent their interests. Custody of minor children, settling finances and distribution of property are critical areas.
- You need a lawyer if someone files a civil suit against you to protect your reputation and assets.
- You need a lawyer if you are injured in a car accident. Personal injury law sometimes gets a bad rap in the media. However, if another person’s negligence causes your injury, it’s essential to have an advocate to ensure you’re compensated for medical bills, time off work and pain and suffering.
- In most cases, estate planning is far more successful with the support of a skilled attorney. Wills and trusts are complicated. An experienced attorney protects your heirs and ensures your wishes are carried out.
When Do I Need A Lawyer for Criminal Cases?
If you are charged with a criminal offense, you need a lawyer. Period. Criminal law is tricky and complex. Each jurisdiction has teams of prosecutors who are familiar with the workings of the legal systems and have developed relationships with judges over the years. You need an attorney to help you navigate the system and ensure the best possible outcome. In some cases, this means getting cases dismissed and avoiding jail time.
- DUI: Virginia has some of the harshest drunk driving laws in the nation. Hiring an experienced criminal defense lawyer is the best way to improve the outcome of a DUI case. A skilled attorney may be able to get charges dismissed or reduced. An experienced lawyer can also help mitigate the consequences if you are convicted of a DUI.
- Reckless driving is a criminal offense–not just a traffic offense– with an automatic misdemeanor charge, and it can become a felony in some cases. An experienced attorney can usually get charges dropped or reduced, protecting your driving record and avoiding criminal charges.
- Drug charges: Virginia is known for strict drug laws compared with many other states. In some cases, drug possession can land you in jail. However, many circumstances can lead to charges being dropped or reduced, so you need a lawyer who understands the system.
Are There Legal Situations Where I Don’t Need a Lawyer?
- Traffic tickets: In most traffic infraction scenarios, like improper lane change or rolling through a stop sign, you only face the possibility of a fine. To many folks, that means it’s not worth paying a lawyer to contest your ticket. However, hiring a lawyer can make a significant difference in the points assessed to your driving record and thus your insurance premiums. So while you don’t “need” an attorney, consulting with an experienced traffic attorney does make a lot of sense in order to fully assess your options.
- Small claims. You don’t need a lawyer to file in the small claims division of the General District Court. The small claims court has jurisdiction in civil cases where the plaintiff seeks up to $5,000. Because of the relatively small amount involved, small claims court is designed to be user-friendly for the public. You can fill out the civil warrant and the judge will conduct the trial. If you choose to retain a lawyer for a small claims case, the matter will be removed from the small claims docket to the regular General District Court docket.
- Mediated divorces don’t require an attorney for each spouse. However, in most cases, we recommend getting your own lawyer, even if you opt for a mediator. A mediator must be neutral, so they can’t provide legal advice to either spouse. Even if your divorce is amicable, it makes sense to have someone on your side to explain your rights and advocate for your interests.
- Simple wills: You can create your own will without an attorney, especially if you don’t have children or have minimal assets. You can use an online service or do the research and draft your own according to state law. However, using a lawyer is the best way to ensure that your estate follows your wishes and protects your heirs.
Is Hiring a Lawyer Worth It?
Many clients are worried about the cost of hiring a lawyer. The idea of mounting legal bills is intimidating, and folks often think they can save money by going it alone. However, except in a few limited circumstances, DIYing a court case is a no-no. When clients understand what’s at stake in a criminal or civil case, they generally see the value in working with trusted legal counsel. Whether you’re involved in a criminal case, a divorce or another civil matter, the Laurel Brigade Law Group’s team of experts can help. Our experienced, compassionate attorneys have various areas of expertise covering criminal defense and civil and family law. We make communication and clarity a priority in all areas, including billing. With payment plans available, we make excellent representation possible for clients from all walks of life. You simply can’t put a price tag on your freedom, your reputation, and protecting your financial assets.